For a small, state-supported liberal arts college in the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, FMU holds an incredibly diverse student population. From the exchange students that spend only a year here to some of the athletes that spend their entire university experience at FMU, there is a constantly thriving international community.
I am an international student from England who has been here since 2014 as part of the men’s soccer program. I know about both the benefits and struggles associated with attending a university that is so far away from home.
There is one question that I get asked above all else at FMU that I hope to answer here: how difficult is the travel?
For me, a typical commute to FMU begins early in the morning British time, which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST). For example, to take this semester’s trip to FMU, my first flight of three hours took off at 7:40 a.m. from Newcastle in Northeast England to London. However, to make sure I was at the airport on time I began my day at 3:40 a.m. In the U.S. that is 10:40 p.m. the preceding day. By the time I had flown to London, boarded my second flight from London to Toronto and finally took my final flight to Atlanta, it was 7:00 p.m. EST.
At this point in my journey I had been traveling for over 20 hours. Yet, I still had to make the four-hour drive from Atlanta to Florence. By the time I made it to my apartment in Florence, I had been traveling for over 24 hours.
It amazes me to think I have been making this trip across the Atlantic four times a year since 2014!
However, I am not alone in this extended commute each semester. Some of the nationalities that also make the trip to Florence that I have come across in my time at FMU include French, Norwegian, German, South African and New Zealander among many others.
When I explain the commute I take, or my New Zealander roommate explains his commute to people from the U.S., many are blown away that we would travel so far to come to this small school in the Pee Dee. But, I do not speak just for myself when I say that the international students who continue to undertake this travel would not want it any other way. We continue to do it because FMU has become a second home for us even though it is thousands of miles from our families and native homelands.
As my graduation looms this semester and I begin to put things into perspective, I genuinely do believe I will miss both the commute to FMU and FMU itself. Part of the beauty of FMU is not the education you receive, or the beautiful part of the world you get to experience but the people you meet. Not just for the internationals students but for the student body as a whole, it is said that university is a place where you meet friends for life and I find it hard to disagree. Speaking on behalf of the majority again, the international students who come to FMU have felt at home from the minute they arrived and I am sure many others will also miss this place and the hours of time spent in a pressurized airplane cabin getting here.